M. Joy Rose is a musician, concert promoter, museum founder, and fine artist. Her work has been published across blogs and academic journals, and she has performed with her band Housewives On Prozac on Good Morning America, CNN, and the Oakland Art & Soul Festival to name a few. She is the NOW-NYC recipient of the Susan B. Anthony Award, her Mamapalooza Festival Series has been recognized as “Best in Girl-Power Events” in New York, and her music has appeared on the BIllboard Top 100 Dance Charts. Her current live/work space in Kenwood is devoted to the exploration of mother-labor as performance art.
Diary of a Curator
9:30 AM. I am a cheerleader with a cup of coffee in hand, at my desk, dressed in underwear, checking e-mail. The young intern in Southeast Asia, who is conducting research as part of a special project for the Museum of Motherhood is having an issue getting access to the women who have been traumatized by rape, displacement, and other human rights violations in Myanmar. She wants me to look over her proposal. A senior in in high school, she believes in humanitarian activism. It is only 9:30 am and we are mothering the world.
12 PM Pause for olives, crackers, kombucha, and seltzer. Nice ice spills on the floor as my phone rings. Daughter wants to video chat from San Francisco on her commute to nursing school, then back to my computer. 3-hour time difference.
1 PM Sift through the student e-mails which begin with “Dear Professor Rose, I am so sorry I forgot to turn in my homework on time,” and are followed by a variety of excuses, most of which are not worth sharing.
2 PM Urgent phone call from a friend. Her voice quivers. “Can you talk?” She apologizes profusely. A secret story spills out. She keeps asking, “Am I crazy?” She’s in the car, with her daughter, leaving her husband. She says she is not safe and needs advice and a divorce attorney. I refer her to one and also the Pace Women’s Justice Center.
2:30 PM Text to my friend. “You are strong.”
3:00 PM Talk to my sister. Grab a cookie.
3:30PM Fingers on keys. I have a theory. I am a woman of many collected years, who has raised four children to adulthood. My circle is comprised of mothers, many who suffer periodically from anxiety, depression, and even mania. (I have had my episodes too). We are the women, forty to sixty years old who have spent our adult life feeding babies, changing diapers, and fretting over young progeny. We work, we take public transport, and if we have cars we drive. We try to sleep. We keep a grueling pace: the caregivers, the mothers, maybe now the fathers, but mostly the mothers whose bodies feel the vacant place where their infants stirred: the real, the imagined, and the yearned for. Trying to heal that deep mysterious hole, prepping children for school, cooking meals, cast, cast, casting spells. We, snap pictures for the prom, or we take them to the hospital, or maybe the worse possible thing happens. We keep so busy. Then, when our youth go off in the world to make lives of their own, all that is left in place of twenty years of directed, exhausting, unrelenting energy is a longing. That momentum, circles back into the heart and mind, funneling a giant vortex that drives some mad – Vigilance! Do not let the madness take hold. Take a deep breath. I am flinging these words, towards the universe in the hopes of reaching your collective soul. Take heed, I beg you. Find a way to fill yourself.
4 PM I draw a sketch of a small statue. She is a victorious woman made of steel with a V-up and V-down. Tomorrow, I go to town to procure rebar, followed with a lesson in welding, from a young man who works in a car factory, who has gifted me with a stick welding machine from 1957. “Can you give me lessons,” I ask? “Sure,” he replies. I place the drawing on the desk and stare at it. The fire burns hot.
5 PM Stirring a pot. Cooking the dinner. Watching the soup spin. I anchor my artistic practice to scholar Sarah Black’s assertions that argue for the position of “mother as curator.” Everyday activities equal the sum of our labor on behalf of the flock, as well as our art, and collectively we create, enact, and display our creativity.
6 PM I still have mountains of homework to do. I have a book to finish, paintings to paint, and metal to bend. I have a museum to run, my mother’s farm to harvest, a home in New York where the work began. Where the children were raised. Where I made music, was married, and then divorced.
7 PM Chores, water garden, pick up the kitchen. Then, back to the computer.
9 PM More papers. More emails. My eyes are tired. I need to log off until tomorrow.
9:30 PM Shutting down the screen. Brushing my teeth. I am grateful for the women, for IWD, for Women’s History Month, for all the ancestors who made my life possible, and for my mother, grandmothers, aunts, and sisters who inspired me to find this work. To the professors, scholars, and artists who helped me understand the world, I live in.
10 PM One last thought, as I lie in bed, in the dark, when the quiet is so thick it feels like an eternity. In the house where my parents lived and died, in the bedroom that was theirs for twenty years after they moved here, next to a field where relatives from Scotland arrived in 1832, where the blackness swallows the light, I say my prayers. I call out for help, invoking my angels, lighting a candle, blessing my children wherever they are (because I cannot tuck them in anymore), and then I wait, slumbering, for strength to find me again, which invariably it does.
Martha Joy Rose; IWD Women in Herstory 2023 (Shared from a 2019 post)
10 AM Log onto the Manhattan College online. Grade papers for the Sociology of Family class. I am teaching fifteen students this summer. They are all boys. I am teaching them Mother Studies. We recite the names of the Female Founders one by one committing them to memory, first the feminist leaders, then their theories, then, the scholars, eventually the artists. I cite the quote from Adrienne Rich: “The one unifying, incontrovertible experience shared by all women and men is that months-long period we spent unfolding inside a woman’s body. Yet, we know more about the air we breathe, the seas we travel, then the nature and meaning of motherhood.” (Of Woman Born, p 11)